It is with a heavy heart and tearful eyes that I share a very tough week. To know cyclists is to see their ups and witness their downs. For a cyclist, the downs often result in injury or worse.
I just read the news that a local Colorado racer named Victor Williams died last night from a head injury fall in the Velodrome. Vic was a track, road and cyclocross racer. He was on the Board of Directors for Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado and the Colorado Velodrome Association. Reading that sentence tonight took my breath away, "No, not him." I didn't know Victor well, but I have seen him at local races for many years. When you cheer for a racer along the barrier, see a racer through a camera lens and then later on your home computer while editing photos, you build a sort of respectful bond with a rider. I will always remember Vic for his strength on a bike, huge smiles and tremendous enthusiasm.
I found myself crying. In a week when I've shed enough tears.
Last Saturday, my friend Julie Stoligrosz's boyfriend Bob Dean was involved in a very serious hit and run accident. He was participating in a 250-mile brevet event ride when a truck struck him from behind. Bob remembers the truck circling back and then fleeing the scene. That kind of inhumanity hurts to the soul. Bob's broad group of family, friends and coworkers all feel the pain that truck driver caused Bob deeply. Bob was left on the road with a broken back, pelvis, 9 broken ribs, a ruptured bladder, and deep lacerations. He will walk again, but seeing a friend in the hospital room in that condition is profound.
I try to help the way I know best, by being there for friends and through words. I have been writing Bob's Caring Bridge Page so that friends and family can keep abreast of his progress. The show of love and support for Bob has been heart warming and heartbreaking. Why did this happen to such a good man? Bob was simply out enjoying freedom of movement on a bicycle and athletically challenging himself.
Just this morning I read every word of Taylor Phinney's injury recovery interview recap on Cycling Tips. I was impressed with Taylor's knowledge and honesty regarding his recovery, but I worried about the pressure put on him when other article titles read "6-8 weeks" recovery for Phinney. You just never know, we are human beings, even the toughest of the tough are not built to be battered around or thrown into guardrails. Some athletes heal fine, some do not.
No matter how strong the will of a professional athlete, such as Amy Van Dyken, when a spinal cord is severed from an ATV for example, motivation and toughness can only get you so far toward a full recovery. Unrealistic expectations run the risk of bordering on cruelty. As we are individual in our athletic ability, so too are we individual in our recovery.
Last Sunday I was talking with another friend, Scott Shoup, about the cycling injuries we have both experienced. I remember saying to Scott, it is a fine balance between acceptance and hope. Almost a dance I would say. Sometimes I have preferred to keep my dance a private one.
But I have to admit that my injuries from breaking my pelvis in four place four years (and those 12 other bones over the years) have left me a different kind of cyclist. Truth be told, the injury left me a different kind of person. I was deeply hurt by comments from those who had expectations that I be just like them or I be as I was before. I am not. I am a person who lives life as if there is no tomorrow (sometimes too much so). I am a person who has learned to love more deeply. I am a person drawn to humor and smiles and enthusiasm and strength of character.
I am also a person who still loves a nice bike ride. But my head is sometimes filled with fear and sadness, and that is simply the truth. I am not giving up on this sport. If doping scandals didn't diminish my love of pro cycling, than I will not allow the truth that bicycles can harm, ruin a perfectly good spin on a bike.
Today I had my first appointment with a new functional physical trainer. A person named Kim who explained to me where my lack of function and strength are based and how I can improve. Improvement - that sounds like the best kind of hope.
I am thinking of you Bob, Taylor and Amy. I will miss you Vic. I continue to follow your improvement Dale Stetina. To the rest of you - stay safe and ride with joy.